I stand alone at the hospital window looking down. Votive lamplights burn their nighttime vigil over a twilit parking lot void of white horses and golden chariots, no gladiators or princes to ward off the phantom who silently glides out the back door, no hope of happily ever after. It’s just me and the parking lot, a gaping carless receptacle where earlier I could not find a single space to park my car. It now stands like the catacombs of old, mournfully vacant.
There is no life, no beckoning, no forward motion; only stillness and darkness that lingers. Oil spots anoint the spots of healers and ministers.
A car passes on the road beyond, then three. A car turns into the vacant parking lot, then two. The car shifts, quivers, purrs, then is still. The headlights flicker, then go dim.
Silent, reverent figures walk across the parking lot and enter beneath the moth-enshrouded lights. It is not a place one comes willingly. I know. These are not the family troubadours who have come to herald new babies into the family. Those will come later in the day. These visitors are the soldiers, the family warriors, who have come to cradle, cleanse, comfort, and console the body of Christ. They come to renew, refresh, and revive those who kept watch at Calvary.
In the whisper of a moment, life enters the house of suffering and death. Dry coffee grounds are scooped and poured. A coffee burner clicks. A hiss. A sigh. Morning incense wafts upward and steals outward into the hall to greet me.
A voice is heard down the hallway. The elevator beeps, lurches, rumbles. A slow grind announces its ascent and its sleepy eye welcomes the new arrivals. Everything, dead and silent only moments before, is now awakened and breathes a new day.
It’s the paschal mystery renewing itself once again. It’s the body of Christ in flesh and blood putting on its armor and conquering a new day. Day in and day out, the hospital lives, suffers, rejoices, dies, rests, resurrects, and lives again. Day in and day out the believers come to witness the body of Christ living, breathing, dying, and rising again to a new day. Day in and day out this house of suffering repeats this mysterious vigil.
Those who stay with a sick loved one at the hospital die to self, die to personal comfort, die to personal pleasures and satisfactions. We give what we can and do what we can. Like Christ, we die and we rise. That is the Paschal Mystery renewed.
Those who suffer from Alzheimer’s or another life-debilitating illness die to self, die to dreams and interests and opportunities. So does their family. Dying is heartbreaking and gut-wrenching. It is also grace filled, but you have to look for the grace; often patiently so, very patiently. You have to be open to the graces. We will rise to a new day, a new dream, a new interest, and new opportunities; as long as we have hope and faith in the Paschal Mystery.
Those who lose a job die to self, die to an old routine, die to an old way of life. We rise to a new day and discover a new routine, a new way of life, a new job. An old way dies while a new way is born. That is the Paschal Mystery renewed.
Those who go through a divorce die to self, die to promises, die to yesterdays gone, die to vows broken, die to family structure crumbled. People have claimed divorce to be like a death in the family. It is that; but, for Christians, there is the promise of a new day, hope in a new tomorrow, and faith that the family structure will rebuild itself. That is the Paschal Mystery renewed.
These are but a few examples of the paschal mystery renewing itself day in and day out and we, as Christians, live it because there we have the gift of hope, the gift of faith in the real Paschal Mystery of our Risen Lord. It is because of that sacrifice and the hope of the resurrection that we renew ourselves, that we comfort one another, that we keep vigil within this house of pain and suffering.
*The author wishes to thank Rev. Louis Arceneaux, C.M. of the Congregation of the Mission of St. Vincent DePaul for his instruction and teachings on the Paschal Mystery. It was through his excellent spiritual teaching on this mystery that the author came to fully understand, appreciate, and renew herself daily to this mystery of life.
Copyright 2012 Cay Gibson